I’m sure this picture looks the same to anyone, but it IS new.
For those that have never eaten reindeer meat, it’s very game-y and dry. Mix it with some ground beef and get some sauce.
More specifically, this is where I went. I did actually s,not ee any reindeer. Or snow. Tulos is a digital marketing agency that specializes in PPC, SEO, Analytics, CRO and email marketing
So today’s presentation is a little bit different than your standard search focused topic. I’m not going to get to show you any cool tips or tricks that you can take home, instead, I got the very unique and cool opportunity to tell a bunch of search professionals about a very cool program I got to take part in. I met this guy here, Toni, V. who’s last name I can’t pronounce at SMX East a few years ago and we kept in LinkedIn and email contact and one day he said “hey, how about a Geek exchange?’ Really this presentation is just a masterful disguise to make a bunch of people look at vacation photos.
So what is a Geek Exchange. Well, we’re definining it as…. Digital Marketing conferences are great, but only last 1-3 days and the learning experience is over just as you get going. With IGE you have a couple of weeks to exchange ideas, practices, findings, etc with other practitioners.
It’s a totally original idea, no
In fact, two other search companies (one tools based and one agency based) did a very similar thing. Although theirs was shorter (one week) but far more intensive and really a swap. They even answered each other’s emails and lived in their homes. I did not answer Toni’s emails, my knowledge of the Finnish language is limited to 6 words.
The Geek Exchange was across two agencies, it wasn’t just me going to Finland for two weeks, Toni also came to Seattle, in fact he came first, last December and for a month. Let’s take a look at the physical locations.
First, Tulos. This is where I make you look at my vacation pictures. This is actually a really concept that they have in their office, it’s called the War Room and it’s a place they can lock themselves in with their clients, fully outfitted to make site changes, come up with presentations, plans and goals, whatever they need to get done.
The first time I heard this I had a horrible flashback to the Gong Show. Turns out if you or anyone makes a sale, they hit it. The last day I was there I heard if 5 times. It was a good day.
And for whatever reason, one of the SEOs has an Oculus Rift, You better believe I took an international geek time out to completely derail 4 employees on a Friday afternoon to screw around with this.
I threw in a couple photos about Portent too, since you know, I’m setting a stage here. All of conference rooms are named after TwinPeaks places. This is also known as the training room
This is the Portent story, as done by an illustrator, covering 19 years of history
And this is the Coke Zero I had in Helsinki, As you can see, my name is KAAAARLE.
The $20 bus ride. Ok, some details, before I get to they why and the who, how did we convince various purse holders to fork over the cash?
I’m break down my trip specifically in this presentation, first of all, because it was in dollars and I have no idea what the exchange rate is today and secondly while the month was really rad for Tulos to come to Portent, I think the two week range of time is more appropriate for this group. Toni got to bring his wife and young son, I had to fly solo. Take a look at the grand total for two weeks, thanks to airbnb being pretty much anywhere, this is amazingly affordable.
And how does this stack up against, say a conference? Not that I don’t love conferences…check out that CPD or cost per day. And wait until you see the ROI.
But first, let’s talk about what you need to pull this off besides airfare and an airbnb. What I found was that for a US company, it may be hard to commit the resource of a month with that big of a time difference, especially if you have client facing time that you need to be there for. However, two weeks is very do-able. I also recommend that Geeks be senior level, have the support of their manager as well as clear financial responsibilities. The company being visited needs to make sure that they can support the Geek and not just with a place to sit and internet, but with time and forced fraternization. My first week, I brought candy from Washington state. Almond Roca and Aplets and Cotlets. I placed them on the desk in front of me and no one but the Geek already knew, would come take one. I thought maybe they didn’t like candy, so I placed the candy in the breakroom, it disappeared. It was not that they did not like candy, they just didn’t want to have to talk to me to get it.
So you might have asked yourself from a legal perspective, how did this work. We signed reciprocal NDAs, the same we use for contractors and we both agreed to “be cool” not reveal things that could be harmful to the other agency. Additionally to steer clear of ANY implications of “work” we agreed that neither person could physically work, click a button or do anything on the other’s clients and that counts as not working overseas, as you’re still working on your own “work” from your company and in the case of the Geek, you’re a “consultant” who can give opinions, view and participate in discussions with.
The why. Why oh why would you do this thinly veiled attempt at a work vacation?
Tulos did a co-op with another USA search agency for one of their clients as well. Having someone you can call and even just ask questions to, whether that’s for another client or contact information, it’s a huge asset.
Learn new thinking, strategies and tactics. Get outside of your office for a while, you know it’s good for you. Get out there and meet new people! Just the other day, we compared notes on how our AWR is set up versus theirs.
There is really something to be said for having some time to think to yourself. When your office is sound asleep, it’s amazing how much you can get go and the ideas you’ll think of. What I would do is sign on again in the evenings a coupe of hours before bed, leave the chat window open and if anyone really needed something, they could find me. In the morning, I’d open up my email, deal with whatever came through since then and then I would have the rest of the day to work uninterrupted on whatever.
I have been at Portent for 8 ½ years, in digital time, that’s like, forever. If you’ve been in the industry or at the same place for awhile. There were sometimes I felt like I was just running and eventually just sitting on the wheel. I can say that I highly recommend something like this to get you off the hamster wheel of routine and get the things going again. And if you have staff or you yourself have this situation, it’s a really great retention tool.
Innovation, sharing, how you’re different. Branding (presenting, writing a guest blog post, good marketing material for you back home as well ('We understand International PPC/SEO better than the next agency') This is great content for marketing without it being sales-y or cheese-y.
The have a guy there who runs all their Yandex PPC for them and let me tell you, that guy KNOWS things. I got to see the backend of the UI, Direct Commander (their Editor) and the custom Excel reporting pieces and tools he built to automate bid management amongst other things. Additionally, I got to interview a department we don’t have, CRO, as well as analytics and compare HR and hiring processes as well as their day to day operations. Also, their AdWords rep is AWESOME.
I think one of the most “relieving” things I brought them was that we have a lot of the same issues both with clients and operations. I got to be there the day they started using a company wide project management system, which after having been through 4 at Portent, I was a tiny bit useful as a frame of reference. I also was able to show the SEO team some reporting tips and tricks, as well as how we manage clients with multiple services AND most importantly, I gave 3 presentations while I was there. One was to the entire company on Portent, who we are, how we’re organized and another from a previous presentation. Perhaps the one they liked the most was the one I gave with two of the PPC folks to current PPC clients and potential leads, where they got a client from. I was told on Pizza Friday that I could have more pizza.
Yeah, that’s them. Being Finnish.
I found these guys in a field on Suomolinna, also known as Sveaborg by the Swedish. They took a ferry to get here to do this. I was so tempted.
This part is important, you can’t just send anyone. They need to be someone who not only knows what they are doing in terms of their industry but are the kind people that get things done.
This is the key to the whole deal, if the company or agency isn’t onboard, this won’t work. They don’t have to be overly involved, but able to provide the time, space and resources needed to make it worthwhile on both sides.
Now that I’ve regaled you all with my tales of the Nordic, how can you get in this as well?
This is the kind of info you want to go in armed with right away, as it’s the first thing that’ll get asked. Especially if you’re trying to exchange somewhere like Barbados or Tahiti.
You need co-workers or more than a team of one, to really make this worthwhile for both parties. I found this guy taking the ultimate selfie down on the waterfront in Helsinki.
And ta-da! We have a website! There’s not a lot on it yet, but we’re working on it. A Portent designer made the logo, we’re going to put up this slide deck, this video and start taking info on setting up future exchanges, whether that is with Tulos or another agency. They’ve been getting other agencies over there express interest in participating as well.
I found the Fockers. When you find something like that, you have to use the picture of it somewhere.
The International Geek Exchange - State of Search 2014
State of Search 2014
The International Geek Exchange
Vice President of Search Me
PPC, SEO, Social, Analytics
Digital Marketing Agency
The International Geek Exchange
It’s Not a Joke Two Geeks walk into a search
What is the IGE?
The IGE is a program where companies exchange search Geeks
with an uninhibited openness of learning and sharing in the
pursuit of mastery of their craft regardless of clients, competitors
How Much Was It?
Showing my work
Geek Exchange 14 days
Transportation (to/from airport) $60
Transportation (around town) $20
Per Day $241
Conference 2 days
Conference Fee $1,300
Hotel (2-3 nights) $500
Meals (dinner) $60
Per Day $773
Geek Exchange 10 days
Per Day $280
What Was Needed?
From both companies
• Two week minimum commitment
• Senior level+ Geeks that can influence change in their company
• Management/C-Level support
• Clear financial commitment (companies and the Geek)
• Scheduling of meetings/trainings prior to the Geek’s arrival
• Ability to provide an org chart/seating map (helps with the remembering of names)
• Place to sit, internet connection, monitors (other equipment)
• Commitment from the team(s) of the same and other disciplines to participate
NDAs and “Working” Overseas
Because “experience” isn’t enough
An International Partner
You can always use more friends
Escape the silo
See how other departments work
Incentivize and invest in staff
It’s Good PR
Seriously, it’s good for business
What they taught me
• Yandex tour (PPC & SEO)
• CRO workflow and sales process
• Analytics workflow
• HR and hiring processes
• Operations processes
• Continuing education program
• Google AdWords betas
What I taught them
• You’re not alone in the world
• SEO reporting ideas
• PPC/SEO reporting narrative
• Account management structure
• Project management sympathy
• New PPC platforms (+ got them a client)
Ideal Candidates • Experienced search marketers
• This is not for “training” in the traditional
• Those that are empowered to be change
agents when they return
• A culture of learning, teaching and sharing
• Already in a regular “training” mode or
• Flexibility and access
• Some senior/same level staff to interact
with in multiple departments
Info Needed to
Convince a CFO
• Services (PPC, SEO, etc;)
• Annual average size of clients and revenue
for the Geek’s channel (or spend)
• Company size
• Approx. annual revenue
• Name a couple of top tier clients
Sole practioner might get weird